Pilcher, Rosamunde: September
(researched by Katie Dalton)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Rosamunde Pilcher. September. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990. Copyright: Robin Pilcher, Mark Pilcher, Fiona Pilcher, and Philippa Imrie. Simultaneous First Editions: 1990. McClelland & Stewart. September. First edition. 536 pages, 24 cm. 1990. New English Library. September. 544 pages.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
First edition published with trade cloth binding on spine and paper covers.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
274 leaves, [6] [1-2] 3-39 [40-42] 43-112 [113-114] 115-213 [214-216] 217-536 [6]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
Edition has no editor, introduction, or dedication. Fourth page includes list of previous books by the author.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
Edition has no illustrations.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
Readability is excellent. Sub-sections within chapters are divided by small icons. Text is divided into sections entitled May, June, August, and September. Each titled sections includes varied numbers of chapters. Chapters are numbered but not titled. First several words of each chapter are in all capital letters, but number of words varies between chapters. Typeface is serif style. Measurements Margins: 2 cm Type size: 98R Book size: 16 cm by 24 cm Page size: 15 cm by 23.2 cm Block of text: 11.4 cm by 18 cm
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
Pages are off-white and rough-edged. Paper is in good condition and does not appear to be discolored. Paper stock is consistent throughout book.
11 Description of binding(s)
Edition has trade cloth binding. Binding is purplish color, with title and author stamped in metallic gold-colored lettering. Hard paper cover is pinkish in color. Bottom right cover features authorís initials, RP, and small decorations stamped in same metallic gold-colored style type as appears on binding. Endpapers lining front and back covers display photographs of autumn leaves, acorns, and small flowers. Transcription of spine: ROSAMUNDE/PILCHER/SEPTEMBER/A THOMAS DUNNE BOOK/St. Martinís Press Transcription of front cover: RP No text appears on back cover. Edition has dust cover decorated with same photographs of autumn leaves as end pages. All text on dust cover is ornate, gold-embossed lettering. Transcription of dust coverís spine: SEPTEMBER/PILCHER/A THOMAS DUNNE BOOK/ST. MARTINíS PRESS Transcription of dust coverís front cover: SEPTEMBER/A novel by the author of The Shell Seekers/ROSAMUNDE/PILCHER No text appears on back cover of dust cover.
12 Transcription of title page
Recto: ROSAMUNDE/PILCHER/SEPTEMBER/A Thomas Dunne Book/St. Martinís Press/New York Verso: Contains copyright and bibliographical information.
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
Search in RLIN Bibliographic File did not reveal locations of manuscript holdings.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
The front flap of the dust jacket refers to Pilcherís previous novel The Shell Seekers and introduces the plot of September. The back flap of the dust cover gives a brief biography of Pilcher and displays a small photograph of the author.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
1990. St. Martinís Press. 472 pages, 22 cm. 1990. St. Martinís Press. Book club edition. 472 pages, 22 cm. 1990. St. Martinís Press. Boxed Set edition. Dimensions (in inches): 2.78 x 6.89 x 4.37. 1990. St. Martinís Press. First edition. Braille. 536 pages, 24 cm. 1990. St. Martinís Press. Large print edition. 2 volumes, 22 cm. 1990. St. Martinís Press. Large print book club edition. 2 volumes, 22 cm. 1991, 1990. St. Martinís Paperbacks Edition. 613 pages, 18 cm. 1991, 1990. St. Martinís Paperbacks. 471 pages, 18 cm. 1991. St. Martinís Press. Paperback edition.
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
500,000 copies were printed in the first edition's first printing. Searches in Publishers Weekly did not reveal the number of printings for subsequent years.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
1990. McClelland & Stewart. September. First edition. 536 pages, 24 cm. 1990. New English Library. September. 544 pages. 1990. Thorndike Press. September. Large print edition. 799 pages, 23 cm. 1991. Coronet. September. 624 pages. 1991. Chivers. September. Large print edition. 784 pages. 1991. Hodders. September. 1991. Macmillan Library Reference. Large print first edition. 799 pages. 1992. Chivers. September. New edition. Softcover large print edition. 800 pages, 24 cm. 1999. Wings Books. Three Complete Novels: September, Voices in Summer, The Carousel. 720 pages. (See also Translations, #13)
6 Last date in print?
Still in print as of Feb. 1999
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
September sold 476,244 copies between its release on May 1, 1990 to January 1, 1991. Searches in Publishers Weekly did not yield sales figures for later years.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
From its release on May 1, 1990 to January 1, 1991, September sold 476,224 copies, making it the #10 bestselling fiction hardcover for 1990. Sales figures by month were not found. September was not among the top 50 bestselling fiction hardcovers in subsequent years.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
Preview in Publisherís Weekly, Vol. 237 ìPilcher is one of the best current practitioners of literate commercial fiction. Here again she limns appealing characters with civilized manners who live in beautiful settings; she describes tastefully furnished rooms, magnificent gardens and elegant clothes in loving detail -- but without the loud dropping of brand names. The story moves leisurely among large estates in the authorís native Scotland, posh London digs, and quaint village cottages. A lavish coming-out party for the daughter of one of the leading families of a town in the Scottish Highlands brings together characters whose lives change in various ways during the novelís four-month span. The Airds and the Balmerinos of Strathcroy and their friends and relatives in London, Majorca and the States are the focal point of the love affairs, domestic complications, estrangements, reconciliations and other gently momentous events. Though the tensions of the plot seem a bit contrived -- the secrets of a glamorous woman returned to her childhood home too late to find peace, the circumstances of a bloody incident in Northern Ireland, the meddling of a mentally disturbed, malign woman -- the novel will keep readers deeply involved. And those familiar with The Shell Seekers will be pleased to find one of its minor characters playing a major role here.î No other advertising copy was found in Publishers Weekly. But the novel was a main selection of the Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club, through which it gained a great deal of publicity.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
The author conducted a promotional tour shortly after the novelís May 1990 release. In total, $300,000 was allotted for advertising and promotion.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
1990, 1989. Bantam Audio. Shell Seekers, September. Audio recording. 4 sound cassettes. 360 minutes. 1990. Bantam Audio. September. Audio recording. 2 sound cassettes. 180 minutes. 1990. BBD Audio Publishing. September. Audio recording. 2 volumes. 1990. Books on Tape. September. Audio recording. 15 sound cassettes. 1,350 minutes. 1991. Chivers Audio Books. September. Audio recording. 16 sound cassettes. 1992. Chivers Audio Books. September. Audio recording. 1993. Chivers Press Publishers Ltd. September. Audio recording. 16 sound cassettes. 1,275 minutes. 1995. Heorverlag. September. Audio recording in German. 8 sound discs. (also listed under #13, Translations.) 1996. Hodder Headline Audiobooks. September. Audio recording. Cassette/CD.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
1991. Emecae. Septiembre -- Spanish translation. Buenos Aires. 504 pages, 22 cm. 1991. Rowohlt. September: Roman -- German translation. Reinbek bei Hamburg. 624 pages, 19 cm. 1991. Shalgi. Sepotember -- Hebrew translation. Tel Aviv. 554 pages, 22 cm. 1991. Wunderlich. September: Roman -- German translation. Reinbek bei Hamburg. 623 pages, 22 cm. 1992. Editions JíAi lu. September -- French translation. Paris. 636 pages, 18 cm. 1992. P. Belfond. September -- French translation. Paris. 525 pages, 25 cm. 1992, 1991. Plaza & Janaes. Septiembre -- Spanish translation. Barcelona. 452 pages, 18 cm. 1993, 1991. A. Monadori. Settembre -- Italian translation. Milan. 561 pages, 20 cm. 1993. Sehun Munhwasa. Kuwaeol -- Korean translation. Saeoul. 2 volumes, 23 cm. 1993, 1992. Signa. September -- Canadian edition in French. Montraeal. 525 pages, 24 cm. 1993. Tosaeo Chulpan Shwim. Kuwaeol -- Korean translation. Saeoul. 2 volumes, 23 cm. 1994, 1991. Plaza & Janaes. Septiembre -- Spanish translation. 452 pages, 18 cm. 1995. Heorverlag. September. Audio recording in German. 8 sound discs. (also listed under #12, Performances in Other Media.) 1996, 1991. Emecae Editores Espaana. Septiembre -- Spanish translation. Barcelona. 504 pages, 22 cm. 1996, 1991. Plaza & Janaes. Septiembre -- Spanish translation. Barcelona. 594 pages, 18 cm.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
September was included in Reader's Digest Condensed Books, Volume 1. Reader's Digest Association: 1991. Pleasantville, N.Y.
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
September has no sequels or prequels, but a character from one of Pilcher's previous novels, The Shell Seekers, is a major character in September. Pilcher, Rosamunde. The Shell Seekers. St. Martin's Press: 1987. New York.
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
Sybil S. Steinberg, an editor for Publisher's Weekly, describes September author Rosamunde Pilcher as "a writer whose unpretentious prose always flows smoothly, never offends, and offers literate pleasure" (July 17, 1995). Praise of Pilcher's work, like Steinberg's, frequently appears in contemporary critical reviews. Pilcher has become a beloved romance writer, but her worldwide success was not immediate. Pilcher was born September 22, 1924 in Lelant, Cornwall, England, where she grew up. She is the daughter of Helen and Charles Scott, who was a commander in the Royal Navy. As a child, Pilcher attended public schools in both England and Scotland. One source says she first attended St. Clare's Polwithen and Howell's School Llandaff before studying at Miss Kerr's Secretarial College. Pilcher aspired at an early age to become a published writer. In 1940 at 16 years of age, she first sent a piece of writing to a woman in London who edited several women's magazines. Although her short story was not published, the editor -- Winnifred Johnson -- is said to have written to Pilcher saying "It's not right yet, but you'll get it" (CA database). In an interview with Contemporary Authors, Pilcher said this experience served as an important starting point for her writing career. Johnson "was a tremendous help to me," Pilcher said. "She was like a very nice headmistress, a great lucky break in my life. Because of her, from the very beginning, I had a market to send things to, and I knew I was going to get some sort of comment. Finally she bought one of my stories, and that was the beginning." Consulted sources did not include the name of the work Johnson purchased. Before publishing her first novel at age 25 , Pilcher served for three or four years in the Women's Royal Naval Service. One source states she served from 1943 to 1946; however, another source says Pilcher served from 1942 to 1946. After leaving naval service, Pilcher married Graham Hope Pilcher, a company director, in 1946. The couple now has four children -- Fiona, Robin, Philippa, and Mark. Pilcher's first published novel is Halfway to the Moon, a romance printed in 1949 by Mills & Boon. Halfway to the Moon is one of ten Mills & Boon novels published under Pilcher's pseudonym, Jane Fraser, which she used on many novels before 1963. Research did not indicate why Pilcher elected to write under a pseudonym, nor why she began using her real name in 1955 for some novels, starting with A Secret to Tell. Between 1955 and 1963, four novels were published under the pseudonym, and two works were published using the name Pilcher. Eighteen novels published under the name Rosamunde Pilcher now have been printed, including The Shell Seekers in 1988. This novel is said to have secured her international success. One source says Pilcher "said that if she died the day after writing [The Shell Seekers], everyone would know exactly what happened in her own life" (Crumey). Consulted sources did not reveal which elements of the novel are autobiographical. September (1990) is Pilcher's follow-up novel to The Shell Seekers, and it was met with high expectations and many positive reviews. In all, Pilcher has published 28 novels, two short story collections, and three plays. Pilcher now resides with her husband outside of Dundee, Scotland. The couple's home lies near her husband's family's farm. Pilcher's hobbies include gardening and "keeping an eye on a variety of guests, children, and animals" (Pilcher). Pilcher can be reached by contacting her agent, Curtis Brown, 62-68 Regent St., London W1, England. Research did not indicate the location of the author's papers.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Contemporary reviews of Rosamunde Pilcher's September were, for the most part, favorable, praising Pilcher as one of the best modern commercial novelists. Although critics fail to label September as a work of true literature, they praise Pilcher's ability to effectively draw readers into an entertaining and well-developed story. Pilcher was most frequently praised for her depiction of both character and setting. Every listed review compares some aspect of September to Pilcher's earlier novel The Shell Seekers. Several critics claimed September lacks the depth of her earlier work; however, others said September upholds her standard of charm and comfort. Some critics praised Pilcher's emphasis of moral ideals over illicit scandal; others outright labeled her characters' interactions as scandalous. The most frequent criticism of September suggested that the novel is perhaps overly "fluffy" in its presentation. Some highlights: "Pilcher writes safely -- crises are introduced then quickly disposed of before one even gets a chance to fret over the potential acts of murder, adultery, and other illicit deeds are nipped in the bud. However, she does have the ability to pull readers straight into her created world and make them glad when such family, romantic, and financial difficulties are smoothed out. Even though it lacks the depth of The Shell Seekers, September is wonderful romantic fiction." --from Booklist, March 15, 1990. Pilcher's "world is not wholly rosy: Suffering exists, some of her characters are sharpies -- but none is out-and-out wicked or sadistic. We know that right will triumph. Since that is so improbable in the real world, I contend that in fiction -- in some areas of fiction -- this is a virtue and fills a need ... [September] adds up to a rich and entertaining read, not quite so suspenseful as The Shell Seekers, but equally enjoyable." --from The Washington Post Book World, April 29, 1990. "In this era of the almost plotless novel, there is a comfortable pleasure to be had in following the interlocked lives of Violet, Aird, and her family and friends, with their numerous scandals and conflicts ... Character is at the heart of any story, and this fine tale has plenty of that." --from "Never Would Violet Tire of Life", The New York Times Book Review, May 6, 1990. "While her peers strain to outdo one another in outrage -- carnage, sleaze, the Pudding that ate Chicago -- Pilcher brazenly dares to ground her novels in virtue ... [There] is an abiding feel for person and place. Despite the leisurely pace, Pilcher can sketch character or croft with the economy and precision of Picasso -- and then challenge you not to care." --from The Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 20, 1990. (Please see "Subsequent Reception History" for complete list of consulted sources.)
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Contemporary reviews of Rosamunde Pilcher's September were, for the most part, favorable, praising Pilcher as one of the best modern commercial novelists. Although critics fail to label September as a work of true literature, they praise Pilcher's ability to effectively draw readers into an entertaining and well-developed story. Pilcher was most frequently praised for her depiction of both character and setting. Every listed review compares some aspect of September to Pilcher's earlier novel The Shell Seekers. Several critics claimed September lacks the depth of her earlier work; however, others said September upholds her standard of charm and comfort. Some critics praised Pilcher's emphasis of moral ideals over illicit scandal; others outright labeled her characters' interactions as scandalous. The most frequent criticism of September suggested that the novel is perhaps overly "fluffy" in its presentation. Some highlights: "Pilcher writes safely -- crises are introduced then quickly disposed of before one even gets a chance to fret over the potential acts of murder, adultery, and other illicit deeds are nipped in the bud. However, she does have the ability to pull readers straight into her created world and make them glad when such family, romantic, and financial difficulties are smoothed out. Even though it lacks the depth of The Shell Seekers, September is wonderful romantic fiction." --from Booklist, March 15, 1990. Pilcher's "world is not wholly rosy: Suffering exists, some of her characters are sharpies -- but none is out-and-out wicked or sadistic. We know that right will triumph. Since that is so improbable in the real world, I contend that in fiction -- in some areas of fiction -- this is a virtue and fills a need ... [September] adds up to a rich and entertaining read, not quite so suspenseful as The Shell Seekers, but equally enjoyable." --from The Washington Post Book World, April 29, 1990. "In this era of the almost plotless novel, there is a comfortable pleasure to be had in following the interlocked lives of Violet, Aird, and her family and friends, with their numerous scandals and conflicts ... Character is at the heart of any story, and this fine tale has plenty of that." --from "Never Would Violet Tire of Life", The New York Times Book Review, May 6, 1990. "While her peers strain to outdo one another in outrage -- carnage, sleaze, the Pudding that ate Chicago -- Pilcher brazenly dares to ground her novels in virtue ... [There] is an abiding feel for person and place. Despite the leisurely pace, Pilcher can sketch character or croft with the economy and precision of Picasso -- and then challenge you not to care." --from The Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 20, 1990. (Please see "Subsequent Reception History" for complete list of consulted sources.)
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Countless new books are published every month, but only a small number achieve coveted best-seller status. The list of books labeled "Top-Ten" by The New York Times often is diverse, with genres ranging from mass-market fiction to autobiography. Although every book is different, each best seller strikes a chord with the population at large for one reason or another, resulting in sky-rocketing sales figures. Rosamunde Pilcher's September is no exception. September, a romantic work of fiction, enjoyed best-seller status in 1990. Several aspects of the novel are typical of best-sellers: it presents life in an idealized light, it is easy to read, and it is the follow-up novel to its author's earlier best-seller. These qualities are present in many other best-selling novels, so September is in many ways reflective of what characteristics can make a book become a best-seller. But not everything about the novel is illustrative of other best-sellers. Unlike many others, September de-emphasizes scandal and immorality. While many novels depend on shocking readers with violence or crime, Pilcher's novel instead highlights morality and virtue. Pilcher's glorified portrayal of life in the Aird and Balmerino families certainly contributed to September's success. Close family and friend relationships, lush scenery, and lavish settings grace the novel's pages, presenting readers with a lifestyle that is often sought-after but less often achieved. Although the novel is set in Scotland, the families represent perfect American dream dynamics. In September, readers with less-than-perfect lives can escape into a world where two happily closely-knit families' largest problems are soap opera-scaled: the novel's central action involves preparing for a large birthday party, and its largest conflict involves an argument between husband and wife about fidelity. The Airds -- Edmund, Virginia, and their son Henry -- are a happy, healthy, wealthy family, and their greatest problem involves sending Henry away to a prominent private school. They live in a home that has been passed down through generations of Airds and lies comfortably in the heart of a luscious, green glen. The Balmerinos, too, have a successful family life. Archie and Isobel have a healthy relationship with their daughter, Lucilla, despite her not living at home. Both families share a sort of friendship with each other that many readers envy. Archie and Edmund were childhood friends, and now their two families are intertwined and often operate as one large, supportive family. In today's society of broken homes and alienation from one's neighbors, this intricate, intimate circle of friends and family seems ideal to many readers. For this reason, many readers choose to read September as a way of tasting the good life. Everything about September is picture-perfect, but that does not mean its characters are infallible. Even the Airds and Balmerinos have problems; however, their problems are always neatly resolved, always in the most desirable ways. Real life may not always lead to a happy ending, but through reading September, readers can vicariously enjoy quick and easy solutions to every one of life problems. Perhaps the best example of this tragedy-turned-fairy tale scenario is Pandora's suicide near the end of the novel. Pandora, Archie's estranged sister, has returned to Strathcroy for the first time in twenty years. After a marvelous visit with her family and friends, Pandora downs a bottle of sleeping pills before drowning herself in a nearby loch. This heart-wrenching tale alone might draw some readers because of its tragic nature. But more readers like a happy ending than a tragic one, and Pilcher delivers just that. Seeking consolation, the Balmerinos hunt down Pandora's physician, who explains that Pandora was -- unbeknownst to the family and the reader -- suffering from terminal cancer. Both the family and the reader are relieved. Her suicide is no longer senseless or inexplicable, but rather a tragedy with which the reader can sympathize. Pandora's cancer is an explanation we all can hold onto. In Pilcher's world, no one suffers without cause, and every crisis has a reasonable explanation. Again, readers are drawn to Pilcher's work because of her representation of life as a picture-perfect world where one can count on wrong always being rectified. This representation not only garnered a large readership, but also prompted several reviewers to praised Pilcher's work. "Pilcher writes safely -- crises are introduced then quickly disposed of before one even gets a chance to fret over the potential acts of murder, adultery, and other illicit deeds are nipped in the bud," said Denise Perry Donavin in a review for Booklist. "However, she does have the ability to pull readers into her created world and make them glad when such family, romantic, and financial difficulties are smoothed out." This presentation of life as an ideal is a common characteristic among many best-selling novels. Many best-sellers depict at least one aspect of life as being almost too perfect, causing readers to soak in every detail of life as it could have been. Danielle Steel novels, for example, often feature romantic relationships that many women long for. Readers without stunningly handsome husbands and glamorous lifestyles can realize their dreams for at least a few hours while curled up with a paperback. Or readers with a taste for adventure can take in a James Bond novel and live vicariously through the man who always turns out on top of the game. Through her presentation of glorified friend and family relations, Pilcher is simply giving readers a taste of living an ideal life -- a common convention for best-sellers. In addition to its subject matter's appeal to readers, September is a book that is intellectually approachable for a wide audience -- another factor that contributed to its success. The novel is printed in a number of editions including mass market paperback, a format that appeals to many readers because of its accessibility and affordability. It is marketed to reader with an average income and average education -- in effect, September is marketed to the general public at large, rather than alienating readers with lower-level educations. The novel is one that can be read passively, without much analyzing or concentration. Even the most intense conflicts -- such as when Virginia Aird tells Henry she does not wish to drive him to boarding school -- are narrated with straightforward simplicity. "But [Henry] was gone, his footsteps stamping up the stairs to the sanctuary of his bedroom. Virginia, gritting her teeth, closed her eyes and wished that she could close her eyes as well. It came. The deadly slam of his bedroom door. Then silence" (Pilcher, 285). September's plot is not complex, nor is its vocabulary intellectually demanding. The novel is focused more around character and plot than scholarly literary value. It does not challenge the reader's intellect. Readers instead select September because it is an engaging, though perhaps simple, story. And many readers, who are more interested in entertainment value than intellectual stimulus, find such novels appealing. This broad accessibility is a common characteristic of many best-selling novels. Bridget Jones' Diary, by Helen Fielding, uses colloquial language and ordinary vocabulary to engage readers into the story of Bridget's daily ups and downs. She deals with problems like weight loss and smoking that are not earth-shattering, but instead these problems are familiar to a large audience. Widespread appeal, then, is an important element of a best-selling novel. Another important factor in propelling September to best-seller status is the success of Pilcher's earlier novel, The Shell Seekers. The Shell Seekers has sold close to four million copies worldwide and remained on national best-seller lists for two years, according to St. Martin's Press, Pilcher's publisher. The Shell Seekers was published in 1987. September hit bookshelves three years later, and by that time Pilcher had accumulated a sizable fan base. Many Shell Seekers fans probably purchased the book in hopes of finding an equally satisfying novel. A reader who reviewed September on Amazon.com is one such reader. "I was a huge fan of The Shell Seekers, so I had to try another Pilcher novel. This novel was as good [as] if not better than The Shell Seekers," the reader said. Some other readers who may not have read The Shell Seekers probably had heard of Pilcher's success and purchased September based on recognition of the author's name. Once an author has one best-selling novel, his or her novels are far more likely to achieve best-seller status because of the power of name recognition. Readers who liked previous books by an author are likely to purchase subsequent works because they anticipate being equally satisfied with the work. This emphasis on name recognition is apparent even by examining the cover art of September's book jacket. The jacket-- like many other successful authors' covers -- features the author's name in larger print than the book's title. This calls attention to the author and immediately draws Pilcher fans to the work. Many other best-sellers have benefited from author recognition. Books by authors like Danielle Steel, Mary Higgins Clark, and John Grisham grace The New York Times best-sellers list month after month, year after year, largely because of their widely-recognized names. In some cases, books by previously successful authors become best-sellers solely because of the author's name recognition and sales figures do not reflect the book's own popularity. Such was the case with Joseph Heller's Something Happened, the novel that followed his largely popular Catch-22. Although Something Happened received many bad reviews and its sales rates dropped relatively quickly, it initially achieved best-seller status, largely due to consumers' recognition of Heller's name. But based on several contemporary reviews, September did not share the short-lived success of Something Happened. September's initial sales figures were boosted by its author's success, but the novel also seems to have satisfied readers' expectations. Many favorable reviews linked September to The Shell Seekers, which probably contributed to its success as a follow-up novel. Readers "familiar with The Shell Seekers will be pleased to see one of its minor characters playing a major role here," said a reviewer for Publisher's Weekly. Other reviewers said September is just as good as Pilcher's earlier best-seller. September "adds up to a rich and entertaining read, not quite so suspenseful as The Shell Seekers, but equally enjoyable," said Aiken in Book World. Many qualities of September are fairly typical of best-sellers; however, the novel's success also was influenced by its de-emphasis of immorality and scandal, which is an unusual quality for a best-seller. Published in 1990, September hit bookshelves alongside novels by Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Mary Higgins Clark. These authors, in contrast to Pilcher, use murder, adultery, gore, and horror to shock and wow readers into purchasing their work. But September leaves out these dark elements and instead presents the reader with a surprisingly wholesome alternative. Pilcher draws a mass readership from people who are thirsty for a book with wholesome, polite charm. "While her peers strain to outdo one another in outrage -- carnage, sleaze, the Pudding that ate Chicago -- Pilcher brazenly dares to ground her novels in virtue," said a reviewer in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Although Pilcher's characters are not saints, they commit relatively few scandalous deeds compared to other authors' best-selling counterparts. Little Henry Aird steals a bus schedule from his housemaid, and Virginia cheats on Edmund in a time of personal weakness. But compared to other authors' dependence on shock value and testing limits, Pilcher's September provides readers with a reaffirmation of the value of virtue -- a quality that earned critical acclaim. "Since that is so improbable in the real world, I contend that in fiction -- in some areas of fiction -- this is a virtue and fills a need," said Joan Aiken in The Washington Post's Book World. Although Pilcher's focus on virtue is not necessarily typical of best-selling fiction, it is not entirely unique, either. For example, Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch Albom's novel that now tops Amazon.com's "100 Hot Books list" also leaves out elements of scandal and shock; this novel instead emphasizes the value of relationships and personal growth. For both Pilcher and Albom, this shift away from negativity likely contributes to their novels' success because of the self-improvement, feel-good craze that marks the 1990s. Many chart-toppers of the decade focus on self-improvement, spirituality, and morality. In 1993, John Gray's Men Are From Mars, Women are From Venus became a nationwide best-seller, reflecting the growing popularity of self-help books. In 1994, William J. Bennett's The Book of Virtues claimed a spot on the best-sellers' list, again reflecting this social shift toward morality. Given this social trend, the absence of violence or scandal in Pilcher's work probably adds to her popularity, despite the rarity of this practice in modern fiction. In short, a number of factors contributed to September's success as a best-selling novel, most of which are common characteristics among other best-sellers. The novel allows readers to escape the real world and vicariously experience the successful lives of its characters, as many other best-sellers also do. Like many best-sellers, September is written with average-level vocabulary and a simple plot and is therefore accessible to a large number of readers. The novel was Pilcher's follow-up work to her earlier best-seller, The Shell Seekers, and thus had the advantage of name recognition -- also a huge factor for many other best-sellers. Unlike many best-sellers, September emphasizes morality over scandal, reflecting social movements of the 1990s. Any month of the year, September boasts numerous qualities that exemplify best-selling novels. Works Cited Amazon.com's Customer Book Reviews: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0312924801/o/qid=944707591/sr=2-1/002-8619109-7828224 Booklist. Vol. 86. March 15, 1990. p.1395. Los Angeles Times Book Review. May 20, 1990. Publisher's Weekly. Vol. 237. March 16, 1990. Washington Post Book World. Vol. 20. April 29, 1990. p.1.
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